Teacher Training

Theory & Approach

The Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam)’s Democratic Kampuchea (Khmer Rouge) history education programme is grounded in local culture and it is participant (or student) centered. Using the history of Democratic Kampuchea as a starting point, the DK history education programme challenges participants with a wide variety of learning and cultural exchange activities that promote dialogue, a diversity of cultural expressions, and process-oriented learning outcomes. DC-Cam frames its historical content within the stories of people, both in written and oral narrative. Civil Parties, as well as local leaders, villagers, and elders are encouraged to share their understanding of DK history. Moreover the DC-Cam history textbook, teacher’s guidebook, and other materials provide a portfolio of stories that cover the spectrum of humanity and inhumanity. Participants are exposed to a wide range of narratives covering perpetrator, victim, bystander, and ‘upstander’ experiences.
In sharing and discussing these experiences, participants are able to consider alternative viewpoints, historical understandings, and cultural perspectives of DK history. In addition, with a nod to Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory, participants are given the opportunity to express their opinions and knowledge using a variety of different modalities, which encourage a diversity of cultural expressions. The DK history education programme offers activities spanning the entire spectrum of culture in Cambodia: from writing/interpreting a song, poem, or story, to painting a picture, assembling a collage, or participating in and interpreting a theatrical performance. Altogether these modalities not only ensure that the spectrum of learners is accommodated but a diversity of cultural expressions is promoted. With DC-Cam’s Teacher’s Guidebook, the teaching guide for teachers, the student-centered approach will be integrated into the classroom teaching. With this new student-centered approach, students will be able to develop self-learning, critical thinking, independent inquiry, high-order thinking skills, critical reading strategies, self-reflection, and problem solving skills among many other process-oriented outcomes that are necessary for the intellectual development of the students.
DC-Cam views teacher trainings as the vehicle for providing a direct benefit to the professional development of teachers, enhanced learning environment for students, and a mechanism for stimulating inquiry, dialogue, and reflection amongst community members on what happened and why during the Democratic Kampuchea regime. 
The teacher trainings meet these objectives by blending local and foreign educational models and utilizing both large and small-group settings. In large groups, teachers are exposed to intensive lectures on the history of Democratic Kampuchea and the general practice points for teaching the history. In this sense, the teachers are taught using local methods that center on teacher-centered learning.
In addition, teachers learn how to manage large classes using student-centered learning approaches. The instruction pulls from theories in both andragogy and pedagogy. In large group settings (20-100 teachers), teachers observe the faculty trainers explaining the history and different methods for teaching the history, then faculty trainers model these lessons (using the teachers as pseudo-student/participants) while giving practice points throughout the mock lesson. After the model lesson, the teachers are given an opportunity to ask questions about any confusing areas of the historical content or the lesson methods. Large group lessons are generally conducted each morning of the training.
In the afternoon of each day, teachers are then required to practice the same or a similar lesson (with the help of the Teacher’s Guidebook as a reference) amongst smaller groups of their peers (between 5-20) who will conduct a peer evaluation for each practice lesson. In this sense, the training requires each teacher to not only study and become an expert in DK history but also assimilate new methods of teaching, which emphasize student participation and interaction and greater opportunity for critical thinking, inquiry, and debate. The large group settings allow the teachers to express themselves in a classroom setting that they are familiar with (large classroom lectures), and the smaller group settings challenge the teachers to practice their lessons before their peers. The smaller group setting is important because it allows the teachers to interact and learn from each other. Peers will be asked by the faculty trainer to evaluate and comment on each teacher’s performance.

While the aim is to have groups of the smallest number possible for the small group breakout sessions, at times the faculty trainers may have ‘small’ groups that exceed 15-20 teachers at one time. In these situations, the smaller classroom settings are still beneficial because teachers are able to interact with each other and every teacher is required to practice a lesson before their peers. Within each group of teachers, a faculty advisor will provide assistance on the delivery of the lesson and fill in any critical content knowledge gaps. However, it is important to mention that during the smaller group sessions, participants are charged with driving the educational experience. Faculty trainers are directed to facilitate the peer evaluations by providing their observations and input; however, the emphasis is on challenging the teachers to self and peer-evaluate. This exercise serves the dual purpose of allowing teachers to improve their lessons while also their understanding of their role as professionals. In effect, they experience what it is like to take charge of one’s own learning, which facilitates their appreciation for student-centered learning methods. Finally, it is important to mention that throughout the training, the teachers are instructed in a variety of different methods. Small group discussions, team exercises, pair-share, ‘socratic questioning’, jigsaw, and K-W-L exercises are just a few of the types of methods that teachers are taught, modeled, and ultimately asked to perform before their peers.

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